#3: Local Events
Local events where your lawmaker will be present, like a town hall meeting, a fundraiser, or a local parade, are fantastic opportunities to meet your member of Congress and let him or her know how you and other constituents feel about an issue. When lawmakers are not working in D.C., they are most likely back home with full schedules of town halls, parades, meetings, and fundraisers.
Why Is It Ranked Third?
We ranked local events second because it is a good way to get your elected officials to see you as a person and not a statistic.
Also, a poignant question at a town hall can lead to a constructive—and public—dialogue about your particular issue with a representative. They normally allow attendees to show their approval or disapproval of the members’ positions.
Often, if the elected official is truly interested in your cause, a member of the representative’s staff will follow up with you after the town hall.
How to Do It Right
Town halls and other public events are fantastic opportunities to address an
issue with your elected officials, raise awareness in the community and build support for your issue among voters.
Here are tips to make sure you are an effective advocate at your local events:
Be persistent. The frequency and location of town halls vary from member to member and can sometimes be announced or changed with very little notice. Keep monitoring your representative’s calendar so that you don’t miss venue or date changes. Write down some questions and take them with you. It is good to have a couple of questions ready beforehand so you can be prepared if called on.
Be respectful. Some people attending town hall meetings get confrontational with their elected officials. Unfortunately, this strategy can be counterproductive. Usually these tactics serve only to embolden the opposition and insult the legislator. An insulted legislator normally will not go to bat for you on an issue that you care about unless they think they will lose re-election because of it. (See more in the Advocacy Guide under the section “How to Win Staffers and Influence Congress.”)
Write a note to your member of Congress. If you don’t get a chance to ask a question at a town hall, then ask one of the staffers to pass a note to the elected official. Make sure to include your email address so somebody from their office can respond to you.
Make it personal. The fact that we keep writing this in all our materials should tell you how important it is to do. A live event is an especially important time to tell your story because the more people who hear your story, the better.
Network with staffers.
The best part local events is that the member of Congress will have staff with him or her. Introduce yourself to the staffers with the goal of building a relationship with them. Exchange business cards or write a polite thank you note for them to pass on to your member of Congress. Ask the staffer if you can email them some thoughts you have on a particular issue. Most likely, if you ask a staffer face-to-face to email them, they will not be in a position to say no.
Bring your friends.
If you belong to an organization like the Rotary Club or volunteer for an issue with a nonprofit, try to recruit your friends to attend the live event. Having one passionate constituent with a personal story is great, but a large group at a town hall can go a long way towards showing the representative that a lot of his or her constituents care about the issue. One suggestion would be to all wear the same customized t-shirt (like “Rotarians for Clean Water") or all have on the same color hat. Anything visual like that will help you stand out and show the member of Congress that your issue has a lot of support among voters.
Perfect your elevator pitch.
When you see your member of Congress at a local event, they are usually surrounded by people trying to get their attention. Make sure you have perfected your pitch so you can recite it quickly if you find yourself speaking with the member of Congress or their staff. You usually only have a moment, so make sure your pitch is short and concise. You can always follow up with the staff later, so make that 10 to 15 seconds count because it is a great chance to get your voice heard directly by your representative.